If your tentacles get caught in a barn door, you might be a redneck.
The videogame industry celebrates death and destruction on a massive scale, so it’s great to know you can still have fun building stuff! Ever a Redneck Jellyfish (Out Now for $0.99, Lite), the lovably doofish Gus Hickey needs the player’s guidance in constructing coral reefs while evading the tentacle-snipping habits of other fauna. This title is so unique that it practically defies genre categorization, but I’ve decided to think of it as a brilliant physics puzzler that should appeal to a wide variety of iOS gamers.
Redneck Jellyfish opens with a live tutorial that explains Gus’ livelihood: plucking up coral seeds with his tentacles and depositing them on a reef base, watching the reef bloom until his coral growth goal for a particular level is achieved. MudStuffing Industries clearly errs on the side of easing the player into its unique premise during the first few levels, but when the game picks up Gus’ work becomes increasingly complex and satisfyingly dicey. Before all is said and done he’ll be turning predators loose against his natural enemies, trapping more formidable foes inside gas bubbles, and even contending with creatures that like to tear down his work.
While Gus doesn’t have a life meter per se, jellyfish tentacles seem to be a delicacy on the ocean floor. A few too many close encounters makes his work less efficient or, at worst, reduces him to a helplessly bouncing head, at which point the player will want to retry the current level. To retry or not to retry at any moment is interestingly left up to the player’s discretion — no forced Game Over screen here.
The physics in Redneck Jellyfish feel floaty enough, but this is the ocean after all! The player’s job is to lead Gus around with touchscreen taps, letting him right himself so his sticky tentacles can drift down and automatically snatch up coral seeds, friendly animals, and miscellaneous debris. A tap on Gus’ head makes him release everything he’s got in tow all at once, so it’s important to patiently dump debris before reaching for coral crystals. Gus must be gently maneuvered around sharp corners and tentacle-snipping obstacles lest the crystals slip from his grip before he can deposit them.
MudStuffing Industries pulls the entire formula off brilliantly, my one complaint being how the movement control currently handles. It’s reminiscent of tap-and-go but functions more like a “tap-and-lurch” in practice, making Gus tentatively lunge toward wherever the player’s finger lands on the touchscreen. Getting him to travel over a distance requires repetitive tapping in the desired direction, which not only makes for herky-jerky visuals but produces significant risk of accidentally tapping on Gus’ head and dropping all those painstakingly collected marbles. I have a feeling I won’t be the only player to ask for a more consistent tap-and-hold movement option in updates. The game could also benefit from better multitask support; the current version restarts from its opening splash screen should the player exit.
Weighing in at 64 levels, Redneck Jellyfish packs a ton of content, and it’s all kept fresh thanks to the new challenges that await Gus at each work site. Gorgeous hand-drawn art makes the ocean floor a far less boring place than one might expect at first, and for some reason Gus narrates every deposited coral seed or snipped tentacle with a quirky “redneck” quote (it doesn’t seem to be Jeff Foxworthy material, but still hilarious). The ukulele jingle that accompanies Gus’ work is charming enough the first few times around but quickly wears out its welcome. Redneck Jellyfish doesn’t appear friendly to external music at present either, consistently canceling out my iTunes playlist. Dag nabbit!
iFanzine Verdict: A refreshingly original title that should appeal to audiences of all ages. Redneck Jellyfish is especially recommended to physics puzzle and action puzzle fans, but any iOS gamer who’s simply looking for something “different” would do well to take a dip in this one. Provided, of course, that you don’t have a strong aversion to ukuleles!